As promised, here is my interview with paper artist and illustrator Christine Kim. I recently discovered Christine Kim incredible works and also had the chance to interview her. We talked about about her passion for paper, working on different art mediums, creativity, plus more. Enjoy!
When was your first experience with paper art and what was it about paper art that sparked your interest?
I was always particular about paper. I would choose sketchbooks by the weight and tooth of the paper, swooning over the St. Armand Canal paper pads with the ragged edges. I love how ubiquitous the material is and it has so many variations, colours, textures, weights, patterns, etc. It could feel like a fragile membrane or be strong enough to use as structural support for furniture. Working with paper is really enjoyable because of the possibilities as just a surface for illustration or built up to fill a room and become an immersive experience.
How have you grown and evolved, and how different is it now compared to when you first started?
When I first started, it was really experimental. I came upon this idea to layer my love for graphite illustration with cut paper and watercolour washes. It was my incubation phase where I was toiling away in my studio and had the comfort of having no audience, so it was really liberating. Nowadays, there are deadlines, exhibitions, grant proposals, and commissions, so life is busier. In the beginning, I used to say "yes" to everything and figure out the logistics of it afterwards; however, now I'm a bit more selective of projects so that I'm not spreading myself too thin. I need to prioritize so that I can devote that energy in more considered ways. It's about doing less, but better. I still like to keep the process experimental and am always looking for inspiration in the materials and tools.
Besides the fun and creativity surrounding paper, what do you think is the essence of paper art?
I think paper is such a common material that is so readily available - almost mundane - that to transform it into wearable fashion or furniture pieces or jewelry is amazing. It has such ordinary beginnings. It is also a tactile experience. We see its texture, could imagine its weight. Countless illustrations and paintings are rendered on its surface. Paper can be folded, providing beautiful shadowed facets, or cut into a complex lattice with dazzling effects for lighting design. It is the ultimate blank page, full of potential.
How do you go about working on a wide range of mediums from illustrations, installations and sculptures.
This is just how I work. I like the variety. It keeps me interested. It gives me new challenges and there are lots of cross-overs. I find that there is always an element of drawing in installation and sculptural work. Even when I draw, I make gestures to draw invisible lines so that I can visualize the composition. These gestures are even more important when stepping into a room and imagining a large-scale immersive installation. Both begin with these marks made in the air.
What is the most important factor to you when working on a project?
I guess the most important factor for any project is my own interest and engagement in the subject matter or idea. Often it's a mixture of idea and intuition.
What is your perfect working mode like?
I'm generally a morning person. So I like waking up early when it's quiet. I make a cup of coffee, check my email, make a daily "to do" list, and just get to work either drawing or cutting or painting. A perfect morning would include blueberry pancakes, but that rarely happens. I would generally work until 5pm and reserve the evening for relaxing, reading and writing. Ideally, I would spend an hour in my sketchbook every day. Sometimes I would keep on drawing into the night when I'm on a roll, but I like to take some time to step back and think about next steps. I'm a creature of habit and structure. I don't like to veer too far from my schedule.
Most challenging project so far?
The most challenging project has to be the installation for Nuit Blanche Toronto 2013. We designed and created over 6,000 paper helmets as well as a pavilion for an interactive origami installation. It was an insane amount of work and the first time I worked with studio interns and an army of paper folders.
The production aspect of the show took a lot of time just to plan and facilitate; there was a lot of logistics involved. But it was a big hit and you can see photographs visitors posted at #paperorbs.
Besides art what else are you passionate about?
I love reading. I'm reading a book by Bernard Rudofsky called Prodigious Builders, which I picked up at a second-hand bookstore. I knew I'd love it because the first chapter is entitled, "In Praise of Caves". I often want my installations to feel cavernous. Aside from literature, I love watching movies. I think I watch more movies than the average person, partly because of my husband who is a film fanatic.
In your opinion how will you define creativity?
I often turn towards authors and how they write about their creative process to find suitable analogies for creativity. One book that I love is Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead, where she lists various ways other writers have described their process: walking into a labyrinth; fumbling in the darkness; or wrestling with an angel. Or I'm reminded of David Foster Wallace's essay entitled "The Nature of Fun", where he describes the arc of the whole creative endeavour from the very beginning of just starting out to gaining some fame and recognition to that unknown path ahead of you when you're grappling with others' expectations, your previous success, and the fear of failure. I can't do it justice, so I'll quote the last lines of it: "The fact that you can now sustain the fun of writing only by confronting the very same unfun parts of yourself you’d first used writing to avoid or disguise is another paradox, but this one isn’t any kind of bind at all. What it is is a gift, a kind of miracle, and compared to it the rewards of strangers’ affection is as dust, lint."
Where is your favorite spot in Toronto?
I love this one coffee shop called Cocoa Latte on St Clair West. I think I take a lot of friends there because it's so nice. It's a family-run business, great coffee, food, gelato, and a small intimate backyard patio that feels like a neighbourhood secret. My favourite is a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso :)
What do you like most about what you do?
I like the time I have to read, draw, and think. I have been thinking about Vermeer's paintings these days, which celebrate the quiet, often overlooked and frankly uneventful moments, which I really like.
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